One of the most reliable starting pitchers of the 1980s, Bob Welch, a first round pick by the Dodgers in 1977, tossed at least 200 innings nine times in his career. Utilizing a high leg kick and fine accuracy, Welch was a solid workhorse for Tommy Lasorda’s Dodgers and later Tony LaRussa’s Athletics. At the top of his game in 1990, Bob won the AL Cy Young Award.
Welch was a rookie sensation in 1978 when he posted a terrific 2.03 ERA during the regular season. Sharp in the NLCS, Bob won the deciding game to send the Dodgers to the World Series. After an amazing rookie season, Bob was poised to duplicate his success in ’79 but it didn’t come. Used as a spot starter and long arm out of the bullpen by Lasorda his first two seasons, Bob joined Jerry Reuss, Don Sutton, Burt Hooton and David Goltz in the rotation in 1980. Everyone but Goltz tossed 200 innings.
After the strike shortened ’81 season, Welch established himself as a premier starting pitcher. He posted a 16-11 record in ’82 with 176 strikeouts. Welch possessed the stuff that missed bats, indicated by his surrendering just 199 hits in 236 innings of work. Just as sharp in ’83, Bob trimmed his ERA down to 2.65 (tops among Dodger starters) and coughed up 164 hits in 204 innings of work.
Welch had to share the spotlight in Los Angeles. The Dodgers had one of the greatest rotations in baseball history in the mid 1980s. Bob went 14-4 in 1985 but his 2.31 ERA didn’t pace the starting five. Orel Hershiser had a 2.03 ERA, to top the club while Fernando Valenzuela won 17 games and Jerry Reuss fashioned a 2.92 ERA. Rick Honeycutt, the fifth starter, was outperformed even though he had a trim 3.42 ERA.
After posting a losing record in 1986, Bob returned to his winning ways in ’87. He fashioned a 15-9 worksheet and tied for the league lead in shutouts. His Dodger rotation mates chipped in too as Bob, Hershiser and Valenzuela all reached 190 strikeouts. Los Angeles used its glut of starting pitching to land two solid relief pitchers in Jesse Orosco and Jay Howell when they dealt Bob to the A’s in a three-team swap. No longer in the shadow of Orel and Fernando, Bob became the A’s co-ace with Dave Stewart.
Bob pitched the A’s to the World Series his first year in Oakland. During the regular season he fashioned a 17-9 worksheet on 245 innings pitched. In the ’88 Fall Classic, his A’s locked horns with his old cronies in Los Angeles. He posted a 1.80 World Series ERA but the Dodgers won the all California Classic. With 17 wins under his belt as an Athletic, Bob tacked on another 17 in 1989, giving him 34 in two years wearing the flattering green and gold.
The water reached its high mark in 1990 when Bob won the Cy Young Award with a terrific 27-6 record, which enabled him to lead the AL in both wins and winning percentage. An All-Star for the second time, Bob carried the A’s to the postseason where he posted a 1.23 ERA in the ALCS against Boston. Oakland went to the World Series and Bob was tabbed with a no decision against the Reds in his only start. Lou Piniella’s Cincinnati charges took the title.
For the first time in six years, Bob’s hits allowed total matched his innings pitched mark in 1991. His ERA skyrocketed to 4.58 and his poor season coupled with terrible campaigns by stalwarts Dave Stewart and Mark McGwire, the A’s fell from first to fourth place in ’91. The A’s got back on track in 1992 as Bob had his last good season. He saw his final postseason action that year with a seven-inning no decision in the ALCS against Toronto. His numbers became horrendous in 1993 and when the players went on strike in 1994, Welch ended his career.
W 211/L 146/PCT .591/ERA 3.47/G 506/CG 61/IP 3,092/H 2,894/BB 1,034/SO 1,969/SHO 28